UN Seeks Aid For Storm Affected Philippines

A mother in Mindanao feeds her baby with high-protein paste fortified with calories and vitamins during a feeding programme for survivors of tropical storm Washi . © Jason Gutierrez/IRIN

The UN and its partners have revised upwards their emergency appeal for storm-affected Mindanao in the Philippines to US$39 million from the original $28.4 million. 
The second emergency revision of the Humanitarian Action Plan for Mindanao (HAP) was revised on 3 February,  allowing for continued vital assistance to more than 300,000 people over a six-month period.

"We focused on the immediate evacuation in the early days... We now need to ensure that we accelerate the safe, voluntary and early return and relocation of the displaced," David Carden, country head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN in Manila.

The move comes in response to what has been described as a "dramatic increase of needs" more than a month after tropical storm Washi struck northern parts of the island.

More than 1,200 people lost their lives and another million were affected when Washi struck on 16-18 December, triggering flash floods and landslides. 

Worst affected were the two major cities, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, in the north of the island, along with hundreds of villages in the area, according to the country's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Tens of thousands were driven into hastily erected evacuation centres, many of them schools, where they were provided with basic needs such as food, clothing, medicine and shelter after the government and aid organizations launched a large-scale relief operation for more than 400,000 people.

According to OCHA, about $9.6 million (or 25 percent) of the initial appeal, including $3 million disbursed from the Central Emergency Fund (CERF), has been provided to date; however, outside bilateral donations from various governments amounting to $22 million had also helped significantly in the humanitarian effort.

But while donations continue to come in, the challenge in reaching those living in hard-to-reach communities remains.

"There are people in some remote rural areas who are still quite vulnerable, who certainly are in need of humanitarian assistance," Carden said, citing the pressing need for shelter.

In a statement on 3 February, the UN said: "Sustained assistance is needed given that hundreds of thousands of people remain without homes and livelihoods."

Under the revised appeal, priority will be given to all affected, including the displaced in evacuation centres and transitional sites as well as people seeking refuge in makeshift shelters and with relatives in areas where their houses stood prior to the disaster and host communities themselves.

"Many lives have been saved through our interventions to date," Jacqui Badcock, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Philippines, said. "But, unless this assistance is sustained and adequate shelter solutions are provided to all the displaced, many will remain vulnerable and unable to sustain themselves and their families."


Underscoring those needs further, on 1 February, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) expressed concern over acute malnutrition rates in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

"Malnutrition is an especially serious concern for Mindanao, where a significant number of children are already undernourished," Abdul Alim, acting UNICEF country representative, said, describing this as an additional blow to these children's health.

During a recent screening supported by UNICEF, 207 children were found to be acutely malnourished - a 50 percent increase compared with a screening carried out at the beginning of the emergency.

It said the children diagnosed were afflicted with "wasting" - when muscles and fat waste away. "A child has a 30 percent chance of dying if it is left untreated," UNICEF warned.